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5 Bands Blamed for Bankrupting Their Labels

Kevin Sheilds Lynval Golding Bez

Larry Busacca / Michael Buckner / Jo Hale, Getty Images

Indie records labels come, and indie record labels go, but the five mentioned in this list all have one thing in common: They can blame one of their flagship acts for bringing about their downfall. Some of the following labels’ bankruptcies can be tied to the exorbitant recording cost — or equally disappointing sales — of one high-profile album, while others are slightly more complicated. Either way, all five labels went under, and all five have also been known to point fingers at specific acts. Hence, this list: 5 Bands Blamed for Bankrupting Their Labels.

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Lynval Golding

Michael Buckner, Getty Images

The Special AKA

The Special AKA (formerly the Specials) spent about two years in the studio recording the aptly titled ‘In the Studio,’ their final album with 2 Tone Records and the disc often credited with putting an end to the legendary ska label. It was a challenging record that sold poorly — but the reason why is a chicken-and-egg scenario. “[They spent less than] $20,000 on promotion,” remembered drummer John Bradbury. “But after [we] had finished recording, that’s probably all the money the record company had left [to spend].”
Happy Mondays

Jo Hale, Getty Images

Happy Mondays

The Happy Mondays’ final record on Factory Records — the legendary British label that also launched the careers of Joy Division and New Order — is considered the one that tanked the label. With a reported budget of more than $500,000, ‘Yes Please!’ was recorded in Barbados, where sessions were marred by singer Shaun Ryder’s drug abuse and utility man Bez’s car crash injury. The disc was released to poor reviews in September 1992, and within two months, Factory had closed.
Green Day

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Green Day

Green Day weren’t the only band to pull its catalog from Lookout! Records in 2005 over complaints about not getting paid back royalties, but they were definitely the biggest, and their exit proved the most damaging. The veteran punk act issued its first two discs — 1990’s ’39/Smooth’ and 1992’s ‘Kerplunk’ — on the label, but in the mid-aughts, they weren’t getting paid for their sales and decided to bail on Lookout. The label immediately fired most of its staff and within a few years had gone under.
Kevin Shields

Larry Busacca, Getty Images

My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine’s seminal shoegaze classic ‘Loveless’ took a reported two years and $500,000 to record, helping empty the coffers of the band’s then-label, Creation Records, and nearly sending it into bankruptcy. In fact, Creation dropped MBV soon after the disc’s 1991 release and managed to survive only by selling off half the label the following year. More than two decades later, the world is still waiting for a follow-up to ‘Loveless.’
Nine Inch Nails

Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails may not have directly caused the end of TVT Records, but Trent Reznor’s band had an undeniable hand in the demise of the indie. NIN’s debut album, ‘Pretty Hate Machine,’ was released in 1989 and sold well, but several years of disputes led Reznor to leave TVT before its follow-up. His departure deprived the label of some much-needed revenue, and NIN later mounted a costly fight to prevent the reissue of ‘Machine.’ By 2008, the label was done.

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